For those of you unfamiliar with the I-171H, it's a treasured document in the international adoption process-- at least the Chinese international adoption process. It's Immigration's stamp of approval, so to speak. It's the document that verifies that, indeed, the U.S. is aware that you are going to adopt and will permit you to bring the child into our country, allowing them to become a U.S. citizen. It's the document you need to get a visa for your child to return home with you. And it's typically the last document you need to complete the dossier you mail to China.
Today, I walked in our homestudy to our local USCIS office so I could hand-carry out our coveted I-171H. The walk-in hours are 8am to noon every Tuesday here in San Diego. I got there around 7:45am this morning. There were already two people ahead of me (one who'd signed in at 7:10am and the other at 7:35am). At 8:00am, the officer called the first name, a woman by herself. He had her sit and wait, then disappeared for 30 minutes, then returned with her form. By now, there were three more people or couples after me. He called us each up, took our homestudies, and disappeared again. For around 40 minutes. Then he called the couple ahead of me, who went back inside the office area (behind the counter). Then, about 10 minutes later, he called me.
As I stepped into his cubicle, he explained there was a problem. "A problem?" I asked, my heart beating a little faster. He pulled out our I600A (the application for the I-171H) and explained that my co-petitioner (that would be Jason) didn't sign the form. It's true, Jason's signature is missing. I have no idea how that happened. I mean, I was in the midst of studying for the bar exam and a little flighty in late May. But, hmm. How did we miss that?
He didn't say anything else about it, just went on checking the rest of the file. I let my eyes explore the walls of his cubicle, and they landed on the small bulletin board of photos. And there, before me, was Marcie, smiling. A friend of ours had left our adoption announcement there last spring, and so her picture was on the wall, a welcoming beacon. I pointed her out to the officer. He said she was very cute. I agreed.
In the end, he asked me to call Jason and have him come down to the office before 4pm today to sign the form. Jason will be able to hand-carry out our I-171H after he does. I'm relieved. Yeah, it's a total pain for Jason to drive downtown and do it. But at least it'll be done. And I'm so glad we decided to do the I-171H in person, because if we hadn't, we might wait weeks to learn our file was incomplete, and we'd still have to go in and sign the form to get our I-171H. So at least we've saved a little bit of time. Hopefully. I'll let you know once we actually have the form, though.
On a separate note, one thing that's kind of neat about sitting in the USCIS office is watching all the people go in for their immigration interviews and receive their appointments to take their citizenship oath. Being born in the U.S., I probably take my citizenship a bit for granted. But there's nothing quite like watching six or seven people gleefully leave the interview room, to rush and hug their waiting family or friends and tell them, "I did it!" while holding out their citizenship oath appointment letters. And I think it's fitting that I could observe such obvious gratitude and joy for being-- or becoming-- and American today of all days. Because today is September 11th.
Jason did go in and sign our I600A form, and the officer did, true to his word, hand Jason our I-171H to take home (and Jason did). So, barring the theft or burning of the car in which the document likely sits at the moment (I hesitate to write that for fear for jinxing us), we'll have the form safe and sound at home tonight. Yippee!